Jan 24, 2022

The USEA Lady Rider of 2021 is Leading the Charge in Elevating Eventing Competition on the West Coast

Tamra Smith and Mai Baum in the CCI5* at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. Erin Gilmore Photo.

Tamie Smith’s year has been nothing short of action-packed as she packed up all 25 of her competition horses and made her way to the East Coast for the first part of the year before hopping on a jet to Tokyo where she served as the U.S. team reserve for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She then stayed overseas and competed abroad for a little while before returning home to the West Coast. While this year has been full of opportunities to show, her aspirations are bigger than just competition. The 2021 Bates USEA Lady Rider of the Year has been full steam ahead chasing goals in both her riding career as well as in her impact on the sport’s future.

“I plan to be involved in this industry probably for much longer than I am even riding,” Smith stated, “so it is important to me to try and make it better for those coming up after me."

Smith attributes being awarded the honor of Leading Lady Rider as the result of a new quality over quantity system that she herself helped to implement. She described reaching out to the USEA several years ago in an effort to level the playing field for athletes across the country who potentially had access to less competitive events.

“The previous point system was a bit flawed in that a person who ended an event on a higher score could receive more points because there were more competitors involved,” Smith explained. “To me, it seemed that quality is still quality, and riders in less-dense competition areas should be able to receive the same amount of points for their placings as those in busier states. It was an unfair advantage that was debilitating to people not in heavy competing areas.”

Thanks to Smith’s push, the system has been reconfigured to run similar to the FEI ranking system and now bases points off of the competitor’s six best finishes regardless of the location or the number of exhibitors. For Smith, who is based in Murrieta, California, the change reflects a system that rewards quality instead of quantity and provides more of a chance to people in a familiar situation to her own. Even so, the victory came as quite a surprise to Smith who admits she had her fair share of mishaps over the year.

USEA/ Leslie Mintz photo.

“I was honestly shocked because I didn’t have the absolute best of years,” she admitted. “During my first three events this year I fell off at least one horse each time, but then I also won too. That being said, I honestly never thought it would happen because of where I live.”

While Smith made the decision to compete on the East Coast for the first part of the year after being left out of the Olympic training list for 2020, her heart lies in bringing that level of quality eventing back to the west coast where she calls home.

“You can’t make it on a team if you are not on the radar,” she stated, “so I knew the only way to get on their radar once again was to travel across the east coast, get in front of more people, and knock it out of the park.”

And knock it out of the park she did. Smith recorded 14 wins over the course of the 2021 season. Her time on the east coast really kicked off strong with a first-place out of 37 entries in the CCI3*-S at Red Hills International aboard Julianne Guariglia’s 11-year-old Argentine Sport Horse mare Solaguayre California (Casparo x Solaguayre Calandria). From there she competed at Ocala, Stable View, The Fork, and Chattahoochee Hills before making her way to Lexington, Kentucky for the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event where she and Ruth Bley’s 17-year-old Hanoverian mare En Vogue (Earl x Laurena) placed second in the CCI4*-S and her Tokyo team reserve mount Mai Baum (Loredano x Ramira), the 16-year-old German Sport Horse gelding owned by Alexandra and Ellen Ahearn and Eric Markell, placed ninth in the CCI5*.

Tamra Smith and Danito at the 2021 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. Erin Gilmore Photo.

Just a month later Smith took five horses to the Jersey Fresh International where she brought home a win aboard Solaguayre California in the CCI3*-L, in addition to a third-place finish with En Vogue and a fourth-place finish riding Ruth Bley’s 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding Danito (Dancier x Wie Musik) in the CCI4*-L. Upon returning home from her international travels where she not only served as the Olympic reserve but also competed at Arville and Aachen, Smith had a winning streak at the Twin Rivers Fall International, with four of her eight horses winning their divisions including the CCI3*-S which she topped the rankings with the 9-year-old German Sport Horse Mai Tanzer, owned by Mb Group LLC. Then it was back abroad to the Netherlands to compete at Boekelo where Smith was part of the second-place Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team in the FEI Eventing Nations Cup CCIO4*-L with Danito who had a top-10 finish.

Land Rover U.S. Eventing Team in their presentation ceremony at the 2021 FEI Eventing Nations Cup at Boekelo.. ©Libby Law Photography

Following Boekelo, Smith returned to the West Coast where she wrapped up her year with a first-place finish at Galway Downs in the CCI3*-L with Mai Tanzer and a second-place finish in the CCI4*-L aboard her longtime partner, Judith McSwain’s 13-year-old Holsteiner mare Fleeceworks Royal (Riverman x Marisol). Smith is now utilizing the experience she gleaned all across the country and the globe into her personal project of establishing upper-level event centers on her own coast.

“I’ve chosen to live on the West Coast, and I always will live here,” she added. “This is my home, and I feel like I owe it to the west coast people to help grow and enhance our community because it can be done here.”

Recently, Smith has been the driving force behind creating a task force on the West Coast to help event organizers better understand what elements riders and owners require for venues to grow and receive more recognition throughout the country. Her efforts consist of collaboration with several top jumper professionals and show jumping event managers to work through a plan of how to bring that level of sport to the area.

Tamra Smith and Mai Baum in the CCI5* at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event. Erin Gilmore Photo.

“The East Coast has really changed for the better and taken their venues to a whole other level more similar to what you would normally see in eventing areas of Europe, so now it is time for the West Coast to step up,” she confirmed. “There was a time where this coast was a destination for eventers as Galway Downs was one of the first and only venues to provide prize money. Our goal is to bring that level of recognition back here by creating spaces that are as nice as, or nicer than, the best on the East Coast. They are putting on these fantastic events at much smaller venues, so there is no reason we cannot do the same.”

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